Eskom transmission business will be 'self-standing' within a month, says Gordhan

Eskom's transmission business will be "self-standing"' within the next month or so, Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan said on Tuesday. 

Gordhan was a guest speaker at an event hosted by law firm ENSAfrica and the Australian High Commission in South Africa on the sidelines of the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town.

Government is planning to separate Eskom into generation, transmission and distribution divisions. 

All of Eskom's existing transmission assets (including the grid, substations and associated infrastructure, the national control centre, and peaker power stations such as hydro and gas turbines) will have to be transferred to the new transmission company. 

The new transmission business will be able to buy and sell electricity, which will allow other companies to start generate electricity for the grid. 

On Monday, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe gave the green light to mining companies to generate energy for self-use without a licence. They would also be able to sell electricity if they were successful in getting a licence.

"By this time next year we hope we can say we have a site for energy generation outside of Eskom. We want people to sell energy through transmission. We want to take the pressure off of Eskom," said Mantashe.

Gordhan said over the next few weeks a clearer picture of SA's energy availability will emerge, as well as what kind of sustainable maintenance plans should be put in place.

The minister mentioned trade union federation Cosatu coming up with its own "innovation to protect jobs". 

"I think over the next month or two we will see some fascination talks happening where labour, business and government try to see how all the resources in the country can be used to save Eskom and get it back to the levels of efficiency required, said Gordhan. 

"For a period we will have load shedding in some form or another, but we want to have it not be speculative, but with proper data and statistics. And when we have this (data) ready, there will be a formal announcement, so that businesses can prepare and compensate for lost production or manage load shedding and its timing."

State capture

Gordhan said Eskom has been severely impacted by state capture.

“We learnt of systemic problems at Eskom like breakdowns in engineering disciplines, which get operations to decline to the point where basic disciplines are not followed anymore," he said. "The good people either leave or they are marginalised and the 'rotters' rise to the top until they are caught in one form or another," Gordhan told the audience.

"The supply of coal and the price and quality of coal supply have all been areas 'interfered' with. One type of coal is contracted, but by the time it lands in the yard it is something different," he said.

In the recent past, large amounts have been spent on maintenance at Eskom - but the effective output of electricity declined, Gordhan said. 

"So, that raises the question of who is making the money out of all this maintenance and what kind of maintenance is being done?"

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